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What, Exactly, Fenty and Rhee are Proposing to Do With Central Office Employees

Media interest in District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty's proposal to make the public school system's central office staff "at will" employees, with job security subject to the Chancellor's discretion, has focused on politics rather than content. On the one hand, Chancellor Michelle Rhee's assertion that current administrative procedures to terminate those who can't or won't do their jobs are too difficult to follow has been allowed to pass without much review. On the other, the powers the Mayor is asking the DC City Council to give the Chancellor have hardly been scrutinized.

Today, I've excerpted the laws that govern central office staff hiring and firing today, and those portions of the bill put forward by the Mayor that would replace the current system. It's easy reading. You can form your own opinion as to the whether the Mayor and Chancellor need the requested powers to turn around the school system, and whether they raise questions about the proper administration of government in a democratic society.

Tomorrow, I'll offer my analysis.

Here are the relevant portions of the D.C Official Code for the removal of central office staff:

Section 1-608.01a. Creation of the Educational Service.

(b)(2) The Board of Education. The Board of Education shall issue rules and regulations which shall provide for the following:

(A) A positive recruitment program designed to meet current and projected personnel needs;

(B) Open competition for initial appointment to the service;

(C) Appointment procedures designed to achieve maximum objectivity, reliability, and validity through a practical assessment of attributes necessary to successful job performance and career development as provided in subchapter VII of this chapter;

(D) Appointments to be made on the basis of merit by selection from the highest qualified available eligible persons based on specific job requirements, from appropriate lists or files established on the basis of the provisions of subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of this paragraph with appropriate regard for affirmative action goals and veterans preference as provided in subchapter VII of this chapter....

(I) Promotion of permanent employees, giving due consideration to demonstrated ability, quality and length of service;

(J) Reinstatements, reassignments, and transfers of employees with permanent status....

(L)(i) Reduction-in-force procedures, with: (I) a prescribed order of separation based on tenure of appointment, length of service, including creditable federal and military service, District residency, veterans preference, and relative work performance; (II) priority reemployment consideration for employees separated; (III) consideration of job sharing and reduced hours; and (IV) employee appeal rights;

(ii) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Board of Education shall not issue rules that require or permit nonschool-based personnel or school administrators to be assigned or reassigned to the same competitive level as classroom teachers;

(M) Separation for cause, which shall be subject to the adverse action and appeal procedures provided for in subchapter XVI-A of this chapter;
(Emphasis added)....

Chapter 6. Merit Personnel System.
Subchapter XVI-A. General Discipline and Grievances.
Section 1-616.51. Policy

The District of Columbia government finds that a radical redesign of the adverse and corrective action system by replacing it with more positive approaches toward employee discipline is critical to achieving organizational effectiveness. To that end, the Mayor, the District of Columbia Board of Education, and the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia shall issue rules and regulations to establish a disciplinary system that includes:

(1) A provision that disciplinary actions may only be taken for cause;

(2) A definition of the causes for which a disciplinary action may be taken;

(3) Prior written notice of the grounds on which the action is proposed to be taken;

(4) Except as provided in paragraph (5) of this section, a written opportunity to be heard before the action becomes effective, unless the agency head finds that taking action prior to the exercise of such opportunity is necessary to protect the integrity of government operations, in which case an opportunity to be heard shall be afforded within a reasonable time after the action becomes effective; and

(5) An opportunity to be heard within a reasonable time after the action becomes effective when the agency head finds that taking action is necessary because the employee's conduct threatens the integrity of government operations; constitutes an immediate hazard to the agency, to other District employees, or to the employee; or is detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare.

Section 1-616.52. Disciplinary grievances and appeals.

(b) An appeal from a removal, a reduction in grade, or suspension of 10 days or more may be made to the Office of Employee Appeals. When, upon appeal, the action or decision by an agency is found to be unwarranted by the Office of Employee Appeals, the corrective or remedial action directed by the Office of Employee Appeals shall be taken in accordance with the provisions of subchapter VI of this chapter within 30
days of the OEA decision.

(c) A grievance pursuant to subsection (a) of this section or an appeal pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall not serve to delay the effective date of a decision by the agency.

(d) Any system of grievance resolution or review of adverse actions negotiated between the District and a labor organization shall take precedence over the procedures of this subchapter for employees in a bargaining unit represented by a labor organization. If an employee does not pay dues or a service fee to the labor organization, he or she shall pay all reasonable costs to the labor organization incurred in representing such
employee.

The Mayor has requested replacing the above with the following:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, rule, or regulation, except for the Chancellor and any Excepted Service employees... every employee of the District of Columbia Public Schools shall be... Placed under the personnel authority of the Mayor....

Separation of Incumbents from District of Columbia Public Schools.

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Mayor is authorized, within the Mayor’s discretion, to identify incumbents employed within the Central Office of the D.C. Public Schools, who are not in an existing collective bargaining unit and who were not hired before January 1, 1980, for separation from service. The Mayor may, by order, delegate any or all of the functions described in this subsection to the Chancellor, or other designee, as warranted for an orderly procedure 1 for the termination of the employment of D.C. Public School Central Office employees.

(2) As used in this subsection, the phrase “Central Office employee” means any employee, except for principals, assistant principals, and employees under their direction and control, of the District of Columbia Public Schools, wherever located in the school system, who 1) as a management employee, as defined in section 1411(5), reports to the Chancellor, Deputy Chancellor, or to any other employee who reports directly to the Chancellor or 2) is under the supervision and control of, or within the organizational unit of, such a management employee.

(3) Notwithstanding any rights or procedures established by any other provision of this act or by any other District law, rule, or regulation, any D.C. Public School employee of the Central Office, who is terminated as a result of this section shall be separated without competition, assignment rights, or retreat rights.

(4) Each employee of the Central Office selected for separation pursuant to this subsection shall be given written notice of the proposed separation at least 15 days before the effective date of his or her separation.

(5) Any determination that an employee shall be separated from the Central Office pursuant to this subsection shall not be subject to any internal or administrative review, except that the employee may file a complaint contesting the determination or the separation pursuant to the procedure established by section 303 of the Human Rights Act of 1977...federal law, or common law....

(10) The provisions of this subsection shall be applicable also to the separation of employees of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education transferred pursuant to the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007....

Section 1-608.01a(b)) is amended to read as follows:

(b) The Mayor... shall each issue rules and regulations governing the employment, advancement, and retention in the Educational Service, which shall include all educational employees of the District of Columbia employed by the District of Columbia Public Schools.... The rules and regulations shall be indexed and cross-referenced as to the classification and compensation system for incumbents....

(2) District of Columbia Public Schools. An appointment to a position within the District of Columbia Public Schools, excluding those employees appointed to occupy or currently occupying a position included in a recognized collective bargaining unit and those who were appointed before January 1, 1980, shall be an at-will appointment. Employees appointed to at-will positions shall be given severance pay in accordance with section 2409 upon separation for non-disciplinary reasons. The Mayor shall issue rules and regulations which shall provide the following:

(A) A positive recruitment program designed to meet current and projected personnel needs;

(B) Open competition for initial appointment to the service;

(C) Appointment procedures designed to achieve maximum objectivity, reliability, and validity through a practical assessment of attributes necessary to successful job performance and career development as provided in title VII;

(D) Appointments of persons made on the basis of merit by selection from the highest qualified available eligible persons based on specific job requirements, from appropriate lists or files established on the basis of the provisions of subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of this paragraph with appropriate regard for affirmative action goals and veterans preference as provided in title VII;

(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Mayor shall not issue rules that require or permit non-school-based personnel or school administrators to be assigned or reassigned to the same competitive level as classroom teachers....

Tomorrow:
My take on the proposals necessity and effect. In the meantime, mull over whether Mayors should have this kind of power over local government agency staff in general, or school systems in particular, and if there are less intrusive means of achieving the Mayor's and Chancellor's goal to quickly separate specific employees who are not doing their jobs.

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